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Plea deal punishment does not fit the crime

An adjustment of the standard procedure on plea agreements may be in order, after a man who has a long history of criminal activity — operating a vehicle after underage alcohol consumption, domestic violence, disorderly conduct, theft and now aggravated vehicular homicide — will spend only four years in prison.

Jared Irvin, of New Matamoras, was so drunk (and there is some question as to whether he might also have been high) when he struck Barbara Wilcox’s Jeep at 94 mph on Ohio 7 and then hurtled into an ambulance that he passed out and urinated on himself in the back of a police cruiser at the scene.

Wilcox did not survive.

“The EMTs worked desperately to save her life while you slept peacefully in the back of the cruiser,” said Wilcox’s daughter, Michele Bennett.

Washington County Assistant Prosecutor Joseph Derkin said Irvin has shown no remorse, in fact has even driven (yes he was still driving) around town laughing at relatives of the victim. He was able to do that, of course, because he had not yet spent a single night in jail.

Washington County Common Pleas Judge Mark Kerenyi was right to express shock that Irvin had not even been booked after his arrest. He is also correct that the sentence received is woefully disproportionate to the severity of the crime committed.

Surely Irvin’s lawyer understands he crossed a line when he said Irvin had “suffered as much as anyone can suffer,” in the wake of his taking Wilcox’s life. Irvin was still free — and free to drive, apparently — and was resting comfortably in the knowledge that a plea agreement had netted him just four years in prison.

One wonders whether anyone checked with members of Wilcox’s families about whether they would prefer to be “put … through a jury trial,” in the hope that Irvin might receive the maximum sentence of eight years in prison and a maximum fine of $15,000 for what he has taken away from them.

There are lots of good reasons for plea agreements: money, manpower and, yes, the wishes of those affected by the crime. This case serves as an important reminder that the quick and easy way is not always the best path to justice.

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